Changing Tempo

 Changing Tempo

Val Beerbower Since taking the helm of the Victoria Theatre Association in 2018, Ty Sutton has been put through his paces of his new adopted hometown. The president and CEO says the area’s largest arts organization is prepared to engage audiences, introduce new elements and connect with the community in exciting ways. So what comes next for the 2020-2021 season?

Technology can be a help or hindrance for connecting with each other, and Sutton says arts are at the center of a transition. “I believe we will start to realize the negative impact of technology because it really isolates us from one another,” he says. “I think the arts connect people and brings them together in a way that very few other experiences can. The arts transcend the issues that divide us and connect us—if for just a brief time.”

But perceived barriers remain. One paradox Sutton has grappled with for the past year and a half is the recognition the Victoria Theatre Association has earned as a premier cultural institution and the disconnect people feel about their personal connection to the arts.

“Often, members of our community tell me that they know about the Schuster Center and they are proud to have an amazing venue in town. However, when I ask them if they have attended a show at the Schuster Center they sometimes reply, ‘Oh, that’s not for me,’” he says. “Our venues are for everyone in the community and (the Victoria Theatre Association) is committed to programming concerts, shows and artists so everyone feels at home and enjoys the experience.”

One goal the organization has is to broaden the definition of “art” to include a wide mix of traditional and modern, classic and contemporary, engaging different age groups, cultural and ethnic backgrounds and connecting with other diverse communities. “Our biggest opportunity is to program entertainment that is accessible to everyone in price and interest and welcome them into our venues,” Sutton says. “(The Victoria Theatre Association) is in the process of changing our brand messaging to include how (the Victoria Theatre Association) has evolved as an organization today as well as in the future.”

Beyond the plush seats, there are more ways patrons can experience the arts. The Education and Engagement Department hosts many programs like Bagels & Broadway, which invites the public to witness a Broadway show load-in and presents the opportunity to meet the crew. Imaginator Discovery Saturday classes introduce elementary students to acting and theater. Cast and crew members of nationally touring Broadway shows lead middle- and high school-aged students in workshops and demos during the After-School Intensive and Master Classes.

This past season’s impressive lineup that included Trey Anastasio, Lyle Lovett and Black Violin just might be eclipsed by the next one. Sutton says his first full season he books will blow us all away and that announcement comes March 10.

Sutton and his team are also undertaking a fresh brand to better identify the Victoria Theatre Association’s evolving role in the community. “We recognize that traditional arts are relevant; however, there are many new forms of dance, music and electronic forms of entertainment,” he says. “Our biggest opportunity is to program entertainment that is accessible to everyone in price and interest, and welcome them into our venues.”